Print: King of the Undead
If there is one thing that everyone has heard about various media outlets, it’s that “print is dead.” Across multiple industries, this mantra has been transformed into a rule of thumb for residential marketers seeking to implement a successful marketing campaign. Gone the way of the dinosaur, print seems to be settling, at least in the public view, wedged somewhere between the rotary dial phone and coal-burning stoves. Quaint and nostalgic, but ultimately inefficient. The past decade or so of dramatically declining subscriptions to printed newspapers and magazines seems to support this, and has served as a catalyst for daily publications like the New York Times and The Guardian to focus on maintaining a strong online presence over trying to regain print readership. The thing is, I don’t think that print truly CAN die, not as long as we human beings continue to be fascinated by our physical surroundings. Print: King of the Undead.
To be clear, this is not a blog bemoaning the fate of the printed word, or about how we had best not forget the skills of screen printing (although screen printing looks beautiful when done well, and I would love to learn on my own time). On the contrary, I think the evolution of digital and web design has led to a dramatic shift in how we think about the way information can be presented to reflect an apartment community’s brand, and I love being able to design something that doesn’t have to be constrained by a physical space, and won’t eventually end up as pretty landfill.
There is still value in choosing to print materials instead of opting for a digital campaign. We’re tactile beings, and I’d be willing to bet that there has been at least one instance in the last month where you have picked up some piece of collateral or marketing swag, turned it over in your hands and thought, “Wow, this is really cool.” A digital invitation would have looked great, and a cohesive web campaign is inarguably valuable when marketing to a large audience, but it was that extra detail that pushed me to mark it on my calendar.
I think the key to deciding whether or not to pursue print within a particular campaign is to ask yourself these three things:
Is it interesting? Printing just to have something to hand out isn’t always as effective as it seems. Simply giving someone something to hold onto without ensuring that it looks different from anything else in the stack of papers they might be holding isn’t going to guarantee engagement with a potential resident. A die-cut shape, an interesting fold, foil overlays, printing on an atypical substrate, there are endless ways to ensure that the materials you’re physically giving to someone looks and feels completely different than everyone else’s.
Is it useful? Sometimes, a flyer or brochure just won’t have the impact you want for your apartment community, and you’re going to need to use a more utilitarian angle. Is there a way to brand an object that has a further purpose than looking beautiful that delivers the message you want to send? Bringing utility to your marketing materials elevates them from potential junk-pile fodder to something interactive.
Is it innovative? Nothing beats the element of surprise. There are always details that often go unnoticed by both the user and producer that can be incorporated into a brand campaign. Free coffee at a resident event? Brand the cup instead of going generic. Use opportunities to make your mark in places where most people substitute anonymous materials. This attention to the “small stuff” speaks volumes about how you or your company thinks about branding and identity.